March-May 2015 :NDT documents: if two signatures were enough!

Written by Laurence
Thursday, 19 February 2015 12:14

The attention of one of us was drawn about conversations on LinkedIn emanating from Filitsa Tileli, NDT Engineer at Strata, as Top Contributor.

Here are the contents:

“Good morning people,

This discussion subject was inspired by a comment that James Stoney did in another discussion about time wasters.

You all know, no matter in which sector of industry you are occupied that documentation needs to be signed and stamped in order to be issued or considered valid. Whether it has to do with NDT reports, written instructions, procedures, purchase orders, training sheets, exam papers, lab reports, you name it, it needs a signature. And in most cases, a stamp as well.

I have been in companies where the NDT work instructions need to be approved by the manufacturing engineers and/or quality engineers. In some cases, even by program managers. I have been in situations where I needed 4 signatures on top of the author of the document and the responsible Level III. The rest of these signatures were to come from people that know about NDT as much I know about perfume making. And although I may be able to appreciate a good smell, I still know bugger all about the process and I could not possibly sign any document related to the making of it.

So, I have found myself in cases where I chase people for signatures who know nothing about NDT and, being weary of signing anything that they don't understand, ask for time to review the procedure. Then they come across things they do not understand and want explanations and I have to run a crash course in NDT just to get that signature and move to the next one.

How wise is to need approval signatures from people that do not know anything about NDT? After all NDT is a special process and you have qualified people to do the review. I would think that at most you need just one more signature apart from the responsible Level III from a manager which would just serve as a verification that this person was notified that a new NDT document is out.

Associated to this, there is the larger problem of who is responsible to provide authorization for which area or which subject. I can be asked to review a manufacturing work instruction or procedure in order to verify that the NDT inspection is in the right place but do I need to officially sign a manufacturing work instruction?

Which documents need reviewing by which people? Do the extra signatures add more weight to the document or do they serve in pacifying our own sense of insecurity? In the sense that we keep adding more signatures and reviews to a document, hoping we are creating a failsafe and that in case of a problem the responsible for it can be found?

Do we actually create more work and eventually more confusion in case of a failure? Because if a failure occurs what is the use of finding out, upon investigation, that half the people who signed a document may had as well signed a purchase order of toilet paper for all the good it did?

I do agree that we need reviews and check points to make sure that we do not let problems into a system. But which changes need signatures by which people? If I change the code number or the issue of a document mentioned in a procedure, do I need all the array of signatures? If the procedure is a new one would I need new more signatures by more people i.e. more reviews since it is a new document? Document traceability is important but how do I maintain the importance without creating ‘snowdrifts’ that make the actual traceability recording more difficult? Is it really worth to go on doing it this way?

I think that linked to this is the red tape problems that bug the aerospace industry as well. But I would like to have that in a separate discussion as it is also linked to availability of information in order for tasks to be completed.

So, all you military aviation guys that already got twichy (is that a Pavlovian response? Mention to military guys the word “security” and they do start to get twichy!!) calm down for the time being, I promise I will set this up as a separate discussion.”


Here are our comments:

Who does sign the specifications?

For a more complete picture, we performed a small investigation by examining some European and American specifications, in a relatively limited in number, from the aerospace and nuclear sectors. It appears that some specifications include:


What should we think?


Signing the documents

Regarding the signing of documents, four concepts are to be considered:


Each of us has witnessed, during his professional career, "incredible" signatures situations.

Such is the example of the manager who, leaving lately for an appointment or meeting, is "chased" and in extremis caught again by a member of his department who wants him to sign an urgent document. Thus, the manager lays down his briefcase and signs the paper on the corridor wall, or in any other acrobatic situation. The problem is that the manager does not have, generally, time enough to read anything, which does not prevent him from signing and "flying" to his appointment or meeting.

Another case: a person does not want to assume his/her responsibilities, and wants to "cover himself/herself", and has his/her immediate supervisor sign the document.

The main problem seems to be the confusion between review and authorization. One should think of the compilation of international standards. These documents are available to the public in their draft form and there is a period of the review, during which professionals that will use the standard are free to comment and offer suggestions. Once this period is over the comments are examined and necessary modifications are made to the standard which will then be published. None of the commentators’ signatures appears on these standards or the signature pages would be more than the standard pages.

So, why can’t the companies sent out documents for review and ask for comments to be sent back to the author? This way the author can incorporate any changes needed and the final draft can go straight for the final checking and approval of the person who has that authority. If the review and feedback stage is kept separate, then the amount of signatures needed on the front page of a document can be reduced drastically.

Will it be so? Hopefully more companies will realize that and start moving in the right direction.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 19 February 2015 12:29 )